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    The Roman Ritual contains two different forms for the blessing of wine on the feast of St John the Evangelist. The first consists simply of three prayers; the second is slightly more elaborate, with three different prayers, preceded by a Psalm and a series of versicles. Both versions contain references to the origin of the blessing, an interesting example of how the Church has embraced and preserved a non-Biblical story about the life of an Apostle.

    Many people have heard of New Testament Apocrypha such as the Protoevangelium of James, the traditional source for the names of the Virgin Mary’s parents and the story of Her presentation in the Temple. Some of these have had a significant influence on the Church’s devotional life and its artistic traditions. Irresponsible scholars have also created a whole cottage industry of foolish writings about Our Lord and the early Church based on some of the Gnostic Gospels, while generally ignoring the apocrypha of the New Testament’s other literary categories, Acts, Epistles and Apocalypses. Like the apocryphal Gospels, the majority of these were clearly written to lend credit to one heresy or another, and therefore rejected by the Church. In some cases, however, once the heresy in question had faded into obscurity, the relevant apocrypha regained popularity, since their heretical content was no long understood or perceived as such.

    One example is the apocryphal Acts of John, a work of the second century with strong overtones of the Docetic heresy, which taught that Christ had only the appearance of a human body. It tells the story that when St John was brought before the Emperor Domitian (81-96), he offered to prove the truth of his preaching about Christ by drinking a deadly poison, in accordance with the Lord’s words at the end of St Mark’s Gospel (16, 18), “if they shall drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them.” The poison did him no harm; this has given rise to the traditional representation of John holding a chalice with a serpent or dragon emerging from it, symbolizing the poison, and its effectiveness, leaving the cup.

    St John the Evangelist, by El Greco, 1604, now in the Prado Museum in Madrid.
    When the Emperor thought he had been saved by trickery, its toxicity was proved on a condemned prisoner, who died instantly, but was later raised to life by John. For this, he was exiled to the Greek island of Patmos, as recorded in the authentic book of the Apocalypse, where he stayed until the death of Domitian; when the acts of the latter were rescinded by the Senate on account of his extreme cruelty, (as reported by St Jerome), John was permitted to return to Ephesus, where he lived out his days.

    St John’s Vision on Patmos, by Giotto, 1317-20, in the Peruzzi Chapel of the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella in Florence.
    This story is referred to explicitly in the rubrics of the Ritual, and in the first prayer of the first form of the blessing of wine, as follows: “And just as the blessed John, driking poison from a cup, remained altogether unharmed, so may all who drink of this cup today in his honor, be set free by his merits from every illness (inflicted by) poison, and all other harmful things…” Likewise, the second prayer asks that all who drink of the blessed wine “may receive of Thy gift health in both body and soul.”

    The second version of the blessing begins with the Psalm “The Lord is my shepherd”, certainly chosen because of its most famous verse, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” The versicles said after it include the verse of St Mark’s Gospel mentioned above. The first of its three prayers begins with an explanation of the Incarnation: “Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God, who willed that Thy Son, coeternal and consubstantial with Thee should come down from heaven, and be incarnate in the world of the Virgin Mary in this fullness of time.” The last part of this beginning, “this fullness of time”, rather than “the fullness of time”, seems to refer to the Christmas season, in which the Divine Incarnation is made manifest, as witnessed by St John above all others, and in which his feast day is kept.

    The prayer continues, “that He might seek the lost and wandering sheep and bring it back to the sheepfold upon His shoulders; and further, that he might cure the man who fell in among thieves from the pain of his wounds.” This refers to a story recorded by St Clement of Alexandria, and repeated by Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History (3, 23), that a young convert of St John turned to a life of violence as a brigand; the Apostle, though now very elderly, pursued the fellow into the moun,tains where he was wont to hide, and brought him to repentance. The second prayer says, “Lord Jesus Christ, who willed Thyself to be called the true Vine, and Thy Holy Apostles the branches”, citing the long discourse of Christ at the Last Supper recorded only in John’s Gospel. The third adds a reference to the creation of bread alongside the fruit of the vine, in reference to the Eucharistic discourse of chapter six of the same Gospel; it also says that John “not only passed unharmed from the drinking of poison, but also raised from the dead those laid low by poison”, referring to the story of the prisoner cited above.

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    This is the title of a blogpost from Liturgy Guy about Lincoln, Nebraska. The facts and figures seem to back up the argument that orthodoxy in liturgy and catechesis keeps the faithful in the Church and the seminaries full.

    Even so, it is not as though Bishop Conley of the Diocese of Lincoln is resting on his laurels. I attended a weekend conference in Lincoln last August in which Adam Bartlett (of Illuminare Publications and Simple English Propers renown), Matthew Meloche and several other excellent speakers (apologies for not listing you all) gave a number of presentations about the music in the liturgy. Bishop Conley lead the way in catechizing his flock with talks and homilies on all aspects of beauty and the liturgy. This included, if I recall, an explanation of ad orientem celebration. I don’t know what the numbers were precisely, but a large proportion of the parishes were represented, usually by more than one person, and many were choir directors and pastors.

    Furthermore, this indicates that the battle is not about EF vs OF. Rather it is about liturgy done well vs liturgy done badly, and orthodoxy vs unorthodoxy in catechesis. I encourage you to read the article.

    As a symbol of what’s going on, the picture that follows is of the old church at the Newman Center of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

    And now here’s the new church, St Thomas Aquinas at the Newman Center of University of Nebraska.

    What does this tell us? Modern is old and tired, traditional is radical and new! Here’s the movement for today - radical traditionalism. Are there any more radicals out there? Let’s hope so!

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    Chicago’s Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica will host its first Traditional Latin Mass in over 40 years at 3:00 pm on Friday, December 30. The Mass will be part of the annual Christmas week bus tour of historic Chicago churches organized by Prayer Pilgrimages, featured in Extraordinary Faith Episode 4, along with another High Mass in the Extraordinary Form at St Mary of the Angels Parish at 12:30 PM on Thursday, December 29. Everyone is invited to both Masses; you do not need to be part of the bus tour.

    Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica is well-known for being the site of the film narrated by Archbishop Fulton Sheen, The Immemorial Tridentine Mass.

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    As has been the case for the last couple of years, we have received a very large number of photographs of Christmas liturgies, and so we will be doing at least one other photopost of them, possibly more. We will also be doing one for Epiphany; a reminder will be posted next week. In the meantime, we will be very glad to receive any photos of liturgies celebrated during the Octave of Christmas, the singing of the Te Deum on New Year’s Eve etc. Thanks to all those who have sent them in, and a blessed New Year to all our readers.

    St Peter’s Eastern Catholic Church - Ukiah, California
    Matins and Divine Liturgy of Christmas; a Baptism celebrated on the vigil is seen in the last two photos. In the Byzantine Rite, Christmas is one of the occasions on which Baptisms are traditionally celebrated, as witnessed by the fact that the Trisagion chant is replaced by the words “All ye that have been baptized in Christ, have put on Christ, alleluia!”, one of a handful of days on which this is done.

    Cathedral of St Eugene - Santa Rosa, California

    Shrine of Ss Peter, Paul, and Philomena (the “Dome of Home”) - New Brighton, England (ICK)

    St Adalbert - Chicago, Illinois

    Christ the King - Sarasota, Florida (FSSP)

    St Anthony - Des Moines, Iowa

    St Marys - Norwalk, Connecticut
    Photos by Stuart Chessman from from the website of the Society of St Hugh of Cluny; click here to see the full set.

    The Proclamation of the Calendae before Mass

    St Joan of Arc - Oberlin, Louisiana

    St. Mary’s Dominican Church - The Claddagh, Galway City, Ireland

    Incarnation Catholic Church - Orlando, Florida (Ordinariate Use)

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    The most ancient sacramentaries and lectionaries of the Roman Rite attest to an order for the Octave of Christmas which is essentially the same as that in the Missal and Breviary of St Pius V, with a few minor variants. The feasts of Ss Stephen the First Martyr, John the Evangelist and the Holy Innocents are absolutely universal on the three days after Christmas. (These are sometimes referred to as a group with the term “Comites Christi – Companions of Christ.”) The very ancient feast of Pope Silvester I (314-335) on December 31st, one of the very first non-martyrs to be venerated as a Saint, is missing from some manuscripts of the Gelasian Sacramentary. In many books, such as the Wurzburg lectionary, the oldest of the Roman Rite, the feast of the Circumcision is called “the Octave of the Lord.” There was also clearly some uncertainty about the Sunday after Christmas, which is missing from some books; the liturgical texts proper to it can also be found in some cases after January 1st, for the Sunday occurring between the Circumcision and the Epiphany.

    A page of the Sacramentary of Corbie, (853-875; folio 12v), with the end of the Mass of the Vigil of Christmas, and the beginning of the Midnight Mass. Bibliothèque nationale de France. Latin 12051.
    The only general addition made to the calendar for this period is the feast of St Thomas à Becket, whose feast is kept on the day of his martyrdom in 1170, December 29; his cultus was embraced so rapidly and universally that the absence of his feast from a liturgical calendar is treated as an absolutely reliable indicator that the manuscript predates his canonization in February of 1173.

    By the time of the Tridentine reform, the custom was well-established, and had been for centuries, that the Sunday after Christmas was transferred to December 30th whenever it coincided with one of the major feasts within the Octave, as it does in most years. (In the Use of Sarum, it was permanently fixed to that day every year.) It may seem rather odd to us to celebrate Sunday on a Friday, as we would this year according the older rubrics, but the logic behind this custom was that all of the Masses assigned to the Christmas octave had a place, and the very ancient feasts from December 26-28 could never be disturbed.

    This remained the custom until the 1960 reform of the Missal, when the Sunday within the Octave was given precedence over the Comites. Since the right of transference was removed from their rank of feasts (Second Class, formerly “Doubles of the Second Class), they are simply reduced to a commemoration on the Sunday. This poorly conceived change was actually made worse in the Novus Ordo, when the Sunday within the Octave was replaced by the feast of the Holy Family. The Novus Ordo also abolished all but a handful of commemorations, which means that last year, the feast of St John the Evangelist, the disciple whom Jesus loved, and the author of the Gospel that proves the divinity of Christ, was entirely omitted in favor of a devotional feast which has only been on the General Calendar of the Roman Rite since 1921.

    This year, however, the Sunday within the Octave is simply omitted, since Christmas itself falls on a Sunday, and the custom of transferring or anticipating Sundays was abolished in 1960. It should be noted that the text of the Introit of this Mass, “While all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the midst of her course, Thy almighty word leapt down from heaven from thy royal throne,” is generally believed to be at least in part the origin of the tradition that Christ was born in the middle of the night, and hence of the celebration of the Midnight Mass of Christmas. In the Novus Ordo, on the other hand, the Holy Family is transferred to December 30th.

    Among the handful of commemorations left in the Novus Ordo, ironically, are the feasts of Ss Thomas à Becket and Sylvester, who were both already demoted to that rank in the 1960 reform, in favor of the ferial days within the Octave of Christmas; exceptions are made for St Thomas in all the dioceses of England, and for any churches dedicated to either of them, which still keep them as their patronal feast.
    A very early reliquary of St Thomas, made at Limoges, France in the 1180s, showing the scene of his assassination in the lower part, his burial and the ascent of his soul into heaven in the upper. Devotion to him was incredibly powerful in the Middle Ages and afterwards, especially in England until the Reformation. (It is to his shrine that the pilgrims of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales are making their way.) More than 40 such reliquaries are still extant.
    The 1960 reform also changed the name of the Circumcision to the “Octave of the Nativity”, which was then abolished in favor of a newly invented “Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God” less than a decade later. (The Gospel of the Circumcision, Luke 2, 21, is included in the Gospel of the new feast. Some readers may remember that at the beginning of this year, a Jewish man suggested to the Pope during his visit to the main synagogue of Rome that he restore the feast of the Circumcision.)

    This new feast is sometimes referred to as a Roman version of the “Synaxis of the Mother of God” which the Byzantine Rite keeps on December 26th. The latter observance, however, arises from a particular Byzantine custom by which several major feasts are followed by the commemoration of a sacred person who figures prominently in the feast, but who is, so to speak, overshadowed by another. These are usually, but not invariably, called “σύναξις (synaxis)” in Greek, “собóръ (sobor)” in Old Church Slavonic; that of St John the Baptist is kept on January 7th, the day after the Baptism of the Lord, that of St Gabriel the day after the Annunciation, that of the Twelve Apostles after Ss Peter and Paul, and that of Ss Joachim and Anne, the Virgin’s parents, on the day after Her Nativity. These are not the principal feasts of the persons honored by these “synaxes”, and one also finds in the Byzantine Calendar the feasts of St John on June 24 and August 29, of St Gabriel on June 11, the Apostles each on their own day (rarely the same as in the Roman Rite), and St Anne on July 26. The Byzantine Rite also keeps the feast of the Circumcision on January 1st.

    The beginning of the Office of Christmas, from an Ambrosian Breviary printed in 1539. Clockwise from upper right are shown God the Father, the infant Christ with Mary, Joseph, the ox and the ass, the martyrdom of St Stephen, St John the Evangelist holding a cup of wine, the appearance of the Angel to the shepherds, the martyrdom of the Holy Innocents, and within the central panel, another version of the Christ Child in the manger.
    The modern reform of the Ambrosian Rite was done with a great deal less haste than that of the Roman, although as a result, there were several years of rather chaotic liturgical experimentation in Milan and the neighboring territories that use the Rite. The imitation of the new Roman customs became so widespread and thoroughgoing in places that the abolition of the Ambrosian Rite was seriously considered even at fairly high levels. Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed, and those charged with the task of officially reforming it in many cases not only preserved its authentic customs, but also corrected some of the more egregious mistakes of the Roman reform.

    In the modern Ambrosian Rite, therefore, the feasts of the Comites Christi are still celebrated even when they fall on a Sunday. The feast of the Circumcision is still kept on January 1st, part of the rationale for this being that the Sixth and last Sunday of Advent is to all intents and purposes a Marian feast, and a second solemnity of the Virgin so close to it was felt to be superfluous. The feast of the Holy Family is assigned to the last Sunday of January.

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    Four prominent members of the Catholic blogosphere – Fr John Zuhsldorf of Fr Z’s Blog (formerly called “What Does the Prayer Really Say?”), canonist Dr Edward Peters, author of the blog In the Light of the Law, Amy Welborn of Charlotte Was Both, and Matthew Archbold of Creative Minority Report– have presented a formal request to S.C. Naoum, the author of the blog Eye of the Tiber, asking him to clarify whether the items which he posts are in fact satirical.

    Although EOTT is thought by many to be a purely humorous website, it has long suffered from what is sometimes known as an “Onion problem.” This term derives from the website The Onion, (which bills itself as America’s Finest News Source,) many of whose articles have been mistaken for true news stories over the years; this has happened so often, in fact, that the Wikipedia article about The Onion has a whole subsection dedicated to the occasions on which its articles have been mistaken for actual news.

    Even on its own website, EOTT says“We are proud to have recently been nominated for Best Catholic News Satire, narrowly losing out to the National Catholic Reporter, proving thus that, more trusted Catholic news sources aside, Eye of the Tiber is your most trusted Catholic news source.” “The confusion runs deep here,” noted Fr Z. “NCRep. (a.k.a. ‘The Fishwrap’) is the most self-serious publication outside all of Christendom. How are we supposed to take this?”

    Screen shot of Eye of the Tiber taken today.
    In a forward to their dubium, the four bloggers write, “The sending of this letter to Eye of the Tiber derives from a deep pastoral concern. We have noted a grave disorientation and great confusion of many faithful regarding extremely important matters for the life of the Church.”

    Several specific articles are cited as examples of those in which it is difficult or impossible for the ordinary Catholic to discern the difference between truth and fiction. Here we give only a small selection of the items of greatest concern:

    Second Year Of Mercy To Allow An Individual’s Conscience To Absolve One’s Own Sins
    Dissident Theologian Hans Kung Petitions Pope To Reconsider Dogma Of Christ’s Resurrection
    Man Whose Every Word Is Misrepresented Thinks 12,000 Word Interview A Good Idea
    “Most Of The Words That Come Out Of My Mouth Are Invalid,” Pope Francis Suggests

    As may be imagined, reactions to the publication of the dubium have varied though the world of Catholic internet journalism. One writer thought to be very close to Naoum has stated that EOTT’s satirical intent is perfectly unmistakable, needs no clarification, and has also been thoroughly clarified. He even went so far as to point out that “Naoum” is a variant of the name of the Biblical prophet Nahum, which means “consoled”, and “since the Holy Spirit is called ‘the Paraclete’, a Greek word which means ‘the consoler’, Naoum’s satirical work is obviously inspired by the Holy Spirit. To deny this is practically blasphemy, and those who don’t accept this will simply be left behind as the Church moves on to the next act of satire.”

    Others have come out in support of the four bloggers, citing EOTT’s own comments’ section on many of its articles, and innumerable postings on Facebook which demonstrate how significant its “Onion problem” has become. One blogger who writes under the pseudonym Vapulabitis told the National Catholic Register, “Just before Christmas, an excruciatingly serious Catholic internet publication posted an article which claimed (among other things) that the Enneagram was invented by the Desert Fathers. The line between news and satire has gotten blurred… dangerously blurred.”

    NLM will certainly be the first to bring you updates on this breaking story.

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    We continue with your photos of Christmas liturgies; this special international edition includes photos from Lithuania, France, Chile and Singapore. We have received enough submissions to make a third, so if you sent photos in and don’t them here, they will be included in the next one. (They are posted in the order received.) We will also be doing photoposts for Epiphany; a reminder will be put up next week. As always, our thanks to all those who sent these in, and best wishes to all our readers for a Happy New Year!

    Church of the Holy Cross - Vilnius, Lithuania

    Church of the Nativity of the Virgin - La Londe Les Maures, France
    The blessing of wine on the feast of St John the Evangelist, and Masses of Christmas celebrated by the Fraternity of Joseph the Guardian.

    St Joseph - Singapore

    St Catherine Labouré - Middletown, New Jersey

    St Benedict - Chesapeake, Virginia
    The star shown below came from the church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and is inscribed with the words “Hic De Virgine Maria Jesus Christus Natus Est - Here Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary.”

    Mater Ecclesiae - Berlin, New Jersey

    Nuestra Señora de la Victoria - Santiago, Chile

    St Mary’s - Kalamazoo, Michigan

    St Michael - Memphis, Tennessee

    St James - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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    The Roman Breviary traditionally has only two proper hymns for Christmas, Jesu Redemptor omnium, which is said at Vespers and Matins, and A solis ortus cardine at Lauds. The church of Rome took a long time to accept the use of hymns in the Office at all, and in its habitual liturgical conservatism, adopted fewer of them than other medieval Uses did; although the major liturgical seasons have three proper hymns, one for Matins, one for Lauds and one for Vespers, most feasts have only two, that of either Vespers or Lauds being sung also at Matins.

    One of the gems which is therefore not found in the historical Roman Use is the Christmas hymn Veni, Redemptor gentium, which is attributed on strong evidence to St Ambrose himself. It is quoted by Ss Augustine and Pope Celestine I (422-32), both of whom knew Ambrose personally, the latter attributing it to him explicitly, as does Cassiodorus in the following century. It was sung at Vespers of Christmas in the Ambrosian Rite, of course, in the Sarum Use, and by the religious orders which retained their proper liturgical Uses after Trent, the Dominicans, Carmelites, and Premonstratensians.

    In many parts of Germany, it was sung in Advent, rather than Christmas; the last stanza before the doxology “Praesepe jam fulget tuum – Thy cradle here shall glitter bright” was omitted, however, until it was sung for the last time at First Vespers of Christmas. In the post-Conciliar Office, it is sung in Advent without the German variant, and without the stanza “Egressus ejus a Patre.”

    Here are two versions, one in plainchant, and a second in alternating chant and polyphony. The English translation by John Mason Neale (1851) is one of his finest such efforts, both for its literary merit as English and its exactitude as a translation.

    Veni, Redemptor gentium,         Come, Thou Redeemer of the earth,
    Ostende partum Vírginis:           And manifest Thy virgin birth:
    Mirétur omne saeculum:            Let every age adoring fall;
    Talis decet partus Deum.           Such birth befits the God of all.

    Non ex viríli sémine,                   Begotten of no human will,
    Sed mýstico spirámine               But of the Spirit, Thou art still
    Verbum Dei factum caro,           The Word of God in flesh arrayed
    Fructusque ventris flóruit.        The promised Fruit to man displayed.

    Alvus tumescit Vírginis,             The virgin womb that burden gained
    Claustra pudóris pérmanent,    With virgin honor all unstained;
    Vexilla virtútum micant,            The banners there of virtue glow;
    Versátur in templo Deus.           God in His temple dwells below.

    Procédens de thálamo suo,       Forth from His chamber goeth He,
    Pudóris aulo regia,                     That royal home of purity,
    Géminae gigans substantiae     A giant in twofold substance one,
    Alácris ut currat viam.               Rejoicing now His course to run.

    Egressus ejus a Patre,                From God the Father He proceeds,
    Regressus ejus ad Patrem:        To God the Father back He speeds;
    Excursus usque ad ínferos        His course He runs to death and hell,
    Recursus ad sedem Dei.            Returning on God’s throne to dwell.

    Aequális aeterno Patri,              O equal to the Father, Thou!
    Carnis trophaeo accíngere:      Gird on Thy fleshly mantle now;
    Infirma nostri córporis             The weakness of our mortal state
    Virtúte firmans pérpeti.            With deathless might invigorate.

    Praesépe jam fulget tuum,        Thy cradle here shall glitter bright,
    Lumenque nox spirat novum,   And darkness breathe a newer light,
    Quod nulla nox intérpolet,        Where endless faith shall shine serene,
    Fidéque jugi lúceat.                    And twilight never intervene.

    Gloria tibi, Dómine,                   O Jesu, Virgin-born, to thee
    Qui natus es de Vírgine,            Eternal praise and glory be,
    Cum Patre et sancto Spíritu,    Whom with the Father we adore
    In sempiterna sæcula. Amen.    And Holy Spirit, evermore.

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  • 12/31/16--09:27: Te Deum on New Year’s Eve
  • It has long been a custom in Catholic churches to sing the Te Deum, the hymn of thanksgiving par excellence, on New Year’s Eve, to thank God for all of the blessings received over the course of the previous year, and then to invoke His blessings for the coming year by singing the Veni, Creator Spiritus on New Year’s Day. In Rome, the Pope and cardinals resident in the city traditionally attended the Te Deum ceremony on December 31st at the church of the Holy Name of Jesus, popularly known as “il Gesù”, the mother church of the Jesuit order. In recent years, however, it has generally been celebrated, even by the first Jesuit Pope, at St Peter’s, together with First Vespers of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, and Eucharistic Benediction.

    Before the Breviary reform of St Pius X, the Te Deum was titled “the hymn of Ss Ambrose and Augustine”, in reference to the tradition Saints Ambrose and Augustine composed it as if by divine inspiration, immediately after the baptism of the latter at the Easter vigil of 387. (Incidentally, this was one of the extremely rare years on which Easter fell on its terminus post quem non, April 25th.) “Te Deum laudamus!”, exclaimed Ambrose, “Te Dominum confitemur!”, replied Augustine, and so on. For this reason, many illustrated breviaries the Te Deum is decorated with an image of the two bishops together.

    The Te Deum in a Psalter created in the mid-16th century for a canon of the Duomo of Milan. (Bodleian Ms. Canon. Liturg. 275)
    This ceremony took place in the baptistery of St John “ad Fontes”, the remains of which can still be visited under the floor of the modern Duomo. (Many years ago, I visited this space and sang the Te Deum together with two priests of the FSSP, while in Milan to attend a traditional Ambrosian Rite Mass in the cathedral in honor of the Blessed Ildefonse Schuster.) A plaque on a wall close to these remains of the ancient font notes that in 1987, the 16th centenary of St Augustine’s baptism, Card. Carlo Maria Martini, the archbishop of Milan, baptized three African converts on Easter night, giving them the names Ambrose, Augustine and Adeodatus; the last was the name of St Augustine’s son, who was baptized alongside him, and died the following year at the age of only 16.

    The baptistery of St John “ad Fontes” is seen in the drawing below as the octagonal building between Milan’s two cathedrals. The larger one on the left, dedicated to St Thecla, was also known as the summer church, used from Easter until the 3rd Sunday of October; the smaller one on the right, the winter church, was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and used from that Sunday until the Easter vigil. St Mary’s also had a baptistery, named for St Stephen the First Martyr, which is not seen here, and of which nothing now remains; this would have been where St Ambrose himself was baptized. The modern Duomo is built over and oriented the same way as St Mary’s, but is very much larger; St Thecla was demolished in the 16th century, but its memory is preserved by the presence of an altar dedicated to her in the cathedral’s left transept, and by the fact that the cathedral parish as a corporate entity is named for her.

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    He that was ineffably born of the Father as the Word without division or separation, and as God from God, abideth in unchangeable divinity, beareth the circumcision in the flesh. Wherefore, according to the Law, He that was above the Law, releaseth all from the curse of the Law, and hath granted blessing from above. Therefore let us praise and exalt His condescension that is good above all things, and with thanksgiving glorify Him, pleading that great mercy be given to our souls. (From Orthros of the Circumcision of the Lord.)

    Greek icon of the Circumcision of Christ, mid-18th century.

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    We begin the new year by finishing up some business from the old one, our final set of photos of your Christmas liturgies. We will also be doing one or more for Epiphany; a reminder will be posted during the week. In the mean time, our thanks once again to all those who sent these in - Evangelize though beauty!

    Mary, Help of Christians - Hong Kong
    Pontifical Mass of Christmas Day celebrated by His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Zen

    Our Lady of the Rosary - Hong Kong (Midnight Mass)

    Shrine of Our Lady of Mt Carmel - Hsinchu City, Taiwan

    Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon - North Jackson, Ohio
    Midnight Divine Liturgy in the Maronite Rite 

    St Joseph Oratory - Detroit, Michigan (ICK)

    Blessing of wine on the feast of St John the Evangelist

    St Mary - Pine Bluff, Wisconsin
    From Fr Z., who knows how to appreciate a good joke.

    Catholic Oratory at Puerto Real de Iloilo - La Paz, Iloilo City, the Philippines

    Proclamation of the Kalendae

    Holy Innocents - New York City
    Dawn Mass of Christmas Day

    The following three sets come from the Tridentine Latin Mass Society of San Francisco.

    St Margaret Mary - Oakland (ICK)

    Immaculate Heart of Mary - San José (ICK)

    St Catherine of Siena - Burlingame

    Ss Margaret and Leonard - Edinburgh, Scotland

    Pontifical Shrine of Our Lady of Mt Carmel - New York City

    Immaculate Heart of Mary - Glasgow, Scotland

    San Felipe Chapel - Los Angeles, California

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    Back when men were men and mitres were mitres
    I was going through some papers recently and discovered a copy of a letter I had written to His Eminence Antonio Cañizares Llovera on January 3, 2011 -- so, almost exactly six years ago. It brought back to mind in a powerful way the difference between our situation then and our situation now. In 2011, one could really believe (with a tinge of youthful optimism) that the combination of a pope of restorative liturgical vision and a sympathetic prefect of the CDWDS could give traction to a long-overdue "Reform of the Reform." It seemed as if we were just around the corner from correcting a host of abuses and missteps. Perhaps in that period lovers of the sacred liturgy were just too sanguine about the magnitude and solubility of the crisis and too reliant on top-down action. It has been good for us to be weaned of illusions and false expectations, even as we are being weaned, more and more, from whatever residual hyperultramontanism we might have imbibed from our neoconservative catechesis. At the same time, as so many recent photoposts have shown, the ROTR at the grassroots level continues to gain ground, if painfully slowly, as the usus antiquior and a more "Oratorian" ars celebrandi win over more and more of the young clergy and the people who are still interested in going to church.

    I would like to share this letter because it may be of help to those who are involved in the real conversations that are still taking place at the local level -- conversations we must continue to strive to influence as much as we can.

    *          *          *
    January 3, 2011

    Your Eminence:

    Pax Domini. As a Thomist theologian, a long-time student of the sacred liturgy, a choir director, and a Catholic who goes to Mass daily, I have pondered certain issues for years that I now wish to put before you in a formal way, knowing that I am not alone in my hopes that your Congregation will be able to find effective ways to address these issues in the years to come. Although nothing I mention will be unfamiliar to you, perhaps the combination of growing discontent among the faithful and the favorable time of Pope Benedict’s pontificate suggest that the kairos for action has at last arrived—as well as the need for stronger measures to ensure adherence to common norms.

    Orientation of Worship

    Those who are well-informed about the sacred liturgy know that the practice of celebrating Mass ad orientem is an unbroken tradition of all churches, Eastern and Western, until the custom was abruptly changed in the 1960s and 1970s. It has also been demonstrated that the adoption of the versus populum stance was never mandated, and that, as a matter of fact, the rubrics of the Missal of the Ordinary Form presuppose that the priest is celebrating ad orientem. Our Holy Father has written about this issue, and, of course, he makes an explicit reference to the definitive study, Turning Towards the Lord, by your Congregation’s own Fr. U. Michael Lang. All of this is no longer a matter of any doubt.

    What remains doubtful is how we can recover this apostolic, praiseworthy, and reasonable tradition. It seems that the Congregation owes to the Catholic world a clarification that both explains the meaning and history of the ad orientem stance and clearly underlines that any priest may, at any time, celebrate Mass ad orientem. It seems that many priests are uncertain about whether they are allowed to do so; certainly many bishops do not seem to understand that this is practice is compatible with, and even preferred for, the Roman Rite in either of its forms.

    The Roman Canon

    The Fathers of the Council of Trent had this to say about the Roman Canon:
    Since it is fitting for holy things to be administered in a holy way, and this sacrifice is the holiest of all things, the Catholic Church—in order that it might be offered and received worthily and reverently—has for many centuries fixed a sacred canon, free from all error, and containing nothing that does not savour in the highest degree of that holiness and devotion which raises the minds of those offering to God. For it contains both the Lord’s very own words and elements from apostolic tradition and the devout enactments of saintly popes. (Session XXII, On the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, chapter 4)
    In spite of those solemn words, the venerable Roman Canon has nearly disappeared from the life of the Church today. There are many parishes where it is rarely or never heard, and as a result, many Catholics are unacquainted with its riches. Many priests automatically use Eucharistic Prayer II because it is the shortest, or, if they are not so concerned about speed, Eucharistic Prayer III because they like it best. The virtual abandonment of the Roman Canon, contrary to the judgment of the Fathers of the Council of Trent, is a novelty without parallel in the entire history of the Latin-rite liturgy; it is a manifest example of the hermeneutic of rupture and discontinuity.

    As a solution, could not the use of the Roman Canon be mandated for certain days, e.g., solemnities of Our Lord and Our Lady, or even the principal Mass of every Sunday? And could not Eucharistic Prayer II be limited to ferial days when there is no commemoration of a saint?

    Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion

    Once again, the Council of Trent bore eloquent witness to the Church’s longstanding tradition:
    In the reception of the sacrament, there has always been a custom in the Church of God that the laity receive communion from priests, but that priests, when celebrating, administer communion to themselves; this custom, coming down as from apostolic tradition, should rightly and deservedly be retained. (Session XIII, On the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, chapter 8)
    Earlier, St. Francis of Assisi, in his Testament, had written these remarkable words, which bear witness to an unbroken tradition:
    The Lord gave me, and gives me still, such faith in priests who live according to the rite of the holy Roman Church because of their orders that, were they to persecute me, I would still want to have recourse to them…..And I act in this way because, in this world, I see nothing physically of the most high Son of God except His most holy Body and Blood which they receive and they alone administer to others. I want to have these most holy mysteries honoured and venerated above all things and I want to reserve them in precious places.
    According to a long series of unequivocal magisterial documents—including Fidei custos (1969), Immensae caritatis (1973), Holy Communion and the Worship of the Eucharist (also 1973), Domenicae Coenae (1980), Inaestimabile Donum (1980), On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful (1997), and Redemptionis Sacramentum (2005)—extraordinary ministers of holy communion are to be used for one of three reasons only: when there is no ordinary minister; when the ordinary ministers are impeded by ill health, advanced age, or demands of another pastoral ministry; when the number of the faithful requesting holy communion is so large that the celebration of Mass would be unduly prolonged. These are the only reasons ever mentioned in official documents.

    The 1997 Instruction On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful listed, among practices “to be avoided and eliminated where such have emerged in particular churches,” “the habitual use of extraordinary ministers of holy communion at Mass, thus arbitrarily extending the concept of ‘a great number of the faithful.” This document specifies that
    Extraordinary ministers may distribute Holy Communion at eucharistic celebrations only when there are no ordained ministers present or when those ordained ministers present at a liturgical celebration are truly unable to distribute Holy Communion. They may also exercise this function at eucharistic celebrations where there are particularly large numbers of the faithful and which would be excessively prolonged because of an insufficient number of ordained ministers to distribute Holy Communion.
    The Church’s documents are clear. In spite of such clarity, however, the practice of habitually employing extraordinary ministers of holy communion has become a fixed rule, almost a requirement, certainly in the United States, but also elsewhere. The prescribed rule is consistently violated around the world. Why? Because apparently many believe that communion must or should be offered under both species as a rule.

    It therefore seems to be the right time to establish a policy about the non-necessity and even non-advisability of communion under both species except for special circumstances (as envisioned by Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 55), as well as the impropriety and illegitimacy of employing extraordinary ministers on an ordinary basis, and to require bishops to enforce this throughout their dioceses. It should also be required that wherever there is more than one ordinary minister residing at a parish or chapel, all of them, and only they, should distribute holy communion (cf. SC, n. 28), as was once the universal custom.

    The aforementioned magisterial documents speak of limited circumstances when extraordinary ministers might be employed. Today in many dioceses, there is no longer any limitation on the use of EMHCs, to the point where typical Catholics could be forgiven for thinking that there is no connection at all between holy orders and the distribution of the Holy Eucharist—in other words, that anyone has the right and business to handle the most holy things. The results are plain to see: presumption, casualness, desacralization, laicization, democratization, loss of belief in the Real Presence, and loss of awareness of the essential distinction between the ministerial priesthood and the universal priesthood of the baptized, which St. Thomas sees as consisting, respectively, in the bestowal and the reception of divine things. The minister bestows in the person of Christ, while the Christian, as such (including the minister qua baptized) receives gifts from Him. This vital and fundamental truth about the order of redemption is being broken down and watered down continually with the passing of each year. The longer this abuse lasts, the greater will be the spiritual damage to Catholics, and the more difficult it will be to ensure orthodox Eucharistic faith.

    Reception of Communion

    Bishop Athanasius Schneider’s book Dominus Est! pleads for the reconsideration and reacceptance of the once-universal custom of receiving the Blessed Sacrament on the tongue and on one’s knees, as we see the Holy Father doing at his Masses. I realize that the Pope wishes to lead rather by example than by legislation, but it remains a scandal that the vast majority of Catholics do not know that communion on the tongue is the ordinary manner of receiving, one that should be preferred for theological reasons and pastoral reasons—not least of which are the increasing dangers of profanation by Satanists, militant social activists, and ignorant visitors. It is scandalous that the faithful do not know that kneeling is the traditional posture of the Latin Church and one that is always and everywhere permitted to the faithful. It is a scandal that communion rails continue to be torn out of old churches undergoing renovation, when they should be retained and utilized.

    In general, one must ask: Is there nothing that can be done “from the top down” to help revitalize the important customs that ought to surround the Holy Eucharist, as part of our cultus of latria for this Most Holy Sacrament?

    Female Altar Servers

    While it is true that in theory any lay person may substitute for the role of an instituted acolyte, there are huge reasons of convenientia or fittingness as to why this substitutional ministry should be exercised by men only and not by women. It is unfitting for women to minister in the sanctuary, the sacred space par excellence where our Lord’s ministers, who represent Him as living “icons,” perform their service. It is unfitting for women to serve in a ministry that so closely points to and pertains to the ministerial priesthood—so much so that it was once seen as an effective way to awaken in the souls of boys and young men vocations to the priesthood, through intimacy with the Church’s liturgical life. It is unfitting, and very sad, to see how boys are now much less willing to serve when there are so many girls of the same age, with whom they do not wish to associate for well-understood psychological reasons.

    In short, this practice has increased the ongoing “feminization” of the Church, which was exactly what its feminist proponents intended it to do. It has caused immense damage that will eventually need to be repaired if the Church’s worship is to become healthy again. It is admittedly a difficult problem, but denying that it is a problem or ignoring the urgent need for a solution will only allow the situation to worsen.

    Sacred Music

    So many people today are writing about the serious crisis in sacred music that there is no need to say much. We all know that the teaching of the Second Vatican Council on the primacy of Gregorian chant as well as the retention of the Latin language in the Church’s liturgy has been ignored and even treated with contempt. Indeed, one of the most obvious examples of rupture and discontinuity in Catholic life is the loss of both Latin and plainchant.

    Accordingly, any genuine renewal of the liturgy, any organic process of improving the Ordinary Form, demands a rediscovery of the Church’s own mother tongue and her own special form of sacred song (which could include vernacular plainchant as well). It would seem that, as time goes on, these treasures, though by no means completely buried, are in danger of being marginalized as the peculiar tastes of a cultural elite. Firm and decisive action would be required to re-introduce and normalize their presence in the life of each and every parish on the face of the earth, precisely to guarantee that “the substantial unity of the Roman Rite is preserved” (SC, n. 38).

    Could not the use of Latin for certain parts of the Mass, as envisioned by Sacrosanctum Concilium, be mandated for particular solemnities or occasions? Could not the training of seminarians be required to include not only a general introduction to Latin (still absent in some places, in violation of Canon Law) but a specific practicum for celebrating the Ordinary Form in Latin, in addition to training in the celebration of the Extraordinary Form? There are now, and I say it with gratitude, quite a number of good bishops who would be open to such programs, but perhaps they are waiting for someone in a higher position of authority to give them a signal.

    Your Eminence, I thank you for taking time to consider this heartfelt plea of a son of the Church, who, in return, will offer up prayers for you. I wish you a blessed New Year of Our Lord.

    Sincerely yours in Christ,
    Peter A. Kwasniewski, Ph.D.

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    This post is actually a few years late. Full disclosure: Roman Catholic Ceremonial: Volume I by Jeffrey Collins is a book I've had dealings with since its inception, throughout its writing and five editions it has gone through. Jeff Collins, a Jersey City resident, is an old friend, former student of ceremonial, and longtime advocate of making the traditional rites more accessible to those who have interest in its revival, but see it as a daunting task. Full disclosure II: I appear in the cover photo and am one of the two people to whom Collins dedicated the book.

    Given this writer's proximity to the book's production, one is free to take what I am about to write and mark it up to friendship. 
    In short, Jeffrey Collins has made the daunting simple, the seemingly overwhelming easy. 
    For those trying to begin celebration of the Extraordinary Form, attempting to clear the hurdles of Fortescue's Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described in any of its editions can be confusing. The same is true for any of the other commentators. Written during a time when the rites of mass were still the norm, there is a sense of the reader being familiar with what is being described. It was what the readers of the time these books were published would have known.
    In the intervening years since the indults of St. John Paul II and Summorum Pontificum many of those who are interested, be they cleric or layman, have not a nodding acquaintance of the rites, nor their terms. Collins more than any other commentator has attempted to assume no knowledge and make the descriptions and directions contained easy to read and, more importantly, easy to follow.
    Based with a primary emphasis on the rubrics as they appeared in 1962, the book goes through the various rites of mass and gives the reader an easy understanding of what to do and when to do it.  It does acknowledge some pre-1962 rites such as the so-called "Second Confiteor" that are used in places, but focuses on the 1962 missal.
    Where some commentators get bogged down in description, Roman Catholic Ceremonial: Volume I keeps the description simple.
    Going through the ceremonies of Low Mass, Missa Cantata and Solemn Mass as well as the ceremonies for Holy Week, the volume tells celebrant or ministers what they must do and when in simple terms while keeping the integrity of the action.
    Over the past year or so, I have been asked by those attempting to train servers or clergy, including at least one seminary, what is the simplest book out there for the novice. This book is the one. When NLM's Peter Kwasniewski asked me what to use at Wyoming Catholic College, I recommended Collins' book. Kwasniewski has told me he refers to the book often and finds it "easier to use than some of the others out there."
    Roman Catholic Ceremonial: Volume I is a must-have for the novice or the experienced Master of Ceremonies or cleric. It has an easy index, and directions for the altar chants used by the ministers during mass.
    A second volume on episcopal ceremonies is in the works, and if Volume I is any indication it will be a great book for any sacristy. 

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    When St John Paul II wrote his famous letter to artists in 1999, he called (in an oft quoted passage) for a “new epiphany of beauty.” It is not surprising that this phrase caught the imagination. It seemed to confirm what so many people felt in general about Catholic culture (not just art) of the 20th century: that Catholic culture was not beautiful...but it ought to be.

    What seems to be less known is that the Pope also felt that the mechanism by which this would happen would emerge out a dialogue between the Church and artists. In the opening section he told us that,
    In writing this Letter, I intend to follow the path of the fruitful dialogue between the Church and artists which has gone on unbroken through two thousand years of history, and which still, at the threshold of the Third Millennium, offers rich promise for the future. In fact, this dialogue is not dictated merely by historical accident or practical need, but is rooted in the very essence of both religious experience and artistic creativity.
    Then, after explaining the importance of beauty and art, and summarizing the great artistic traditions of the Church in the past, he closes with a section entitled, Towards a Renewed Dialogue, in which he tell us:
    The Church is especially concerned for the dialogue with art and is keen that in our own time there be a new alliance with artists, as called for by my revered predecessor Paul VI in his vibrant speech to artists during a special meeting he had with them in the Sistine Chapel on 7 May 1964.(17) From such cooperation the Church hopes for a renewed “epiphany” of beauty in our time and apt responses to the particular needs of the Christian community.
    But what form can this dialogue take? One answer is to have enlightened patrons, especially clergy, people who are capable of engaging with artists constructively. One such person of whom I am aware is Fr Charles Byrd of Our Lady of the Mountains in Jasper, Georgia. This is as small rural parish, yet he has managed to reorder his church, and commissioned art and music. He has raised the money through the enthusiasm of a congregation of just a few hundred people. I have written in the past about this, here, in connection with the commissioning of an icon of St Ambrose.

    I will talk more of the Our Lady of the Mountains project in future posts, as it is nearing completion.

    Another way in which artists can dialogue with the Church is to engage with other artists, and with Catholics who would not otherwise be involved in the creative process at all. This last aspect is a bit of market research whereby the artist can see how well his work connects with people.

    Currently, I am putting the finishing touches to an online class for Pontifex University called How to Adopt An Artistic Style as Your Own – A Study of Artistic Method for Patrons and Artists. Case Study: Illumination in the Style of the English Gothic School of St Albans 

    The intention of this class is both practical and theoretical. On the theoretical side, it is to give artists and patrons an understanding of the methods by which, for example, the Russian icon painters and theorists who were living in Paris in mid-20th century re-established the iconographic tradition so successfully. The hope is that by passing on these principles to those who might be influential in the Catholic Church, we might see a similar re-establishment of our Western traditions of sacred art in service to the liturgy. For our case study, we apply these considerations to the style of English Gothic illumination which flourished from about 1100-1300 AD. To demonstrate how this might be done - and this is the practical side of the class - I demonstrate how to compose, draw and paint a picture in accordance with these principles. As such it is also an introductory class to the method of painting in egg tempera. One could approach the class as artist, in which where you actually learn to the painting and have personal critiques on your work; or as a potential patron of the arts, by which you see all the practical instructional material, but are tested on your understanding of the artistic process through written exams.

    This “patrons’ option” is a vital aspect of this course. I know as an artist that the quality of what I produce goes up when the person commissioning the work understands what is artistically possible, and has a clear idea of what art is for.

    This dialogue between artist and patron is one form of potential dialogue between the Church and the artist. While creating the course, I engaged in another type of dialogue that I also think will help increase the chances of this mission being successful.

    As I painted the demonstration icon for class, for which I chose the Baptism in Jordan as the subject, I recorded with both video and still photographs what I was doing, in order to create the demonstration material for the class, which will be offered online. This meant that I took a series of photographs of the painting in various stages of completion. Simultaneously, I posted some of these photos on Facebook and invited comments.

    I was a little nervous when I did so, because I was exposing myself. However although the feedback, was not always positive, it was always constructive (and polite). Furthermore, it came from quite a wide range of people, from internationally known iconographers such as Dr Stephane Rene, to Pontifex University students and even to the six year old son of friends in Washington DC (comments relayed by his mother!)

    As a result of this, I was able to some degree to modify the final form of the picture ,and gain valuable information for the design of such images in the future.

    First here is the original image I based my own icon on:

    Winchester Psalter, c 1200
    Below, you can see the drawing I made from this with the lines painted in with walnut ink, and that I decided to add some features that commonly appear in Eastern icons. For example, I added the personifications of the Red Sea and the Jordan which were driven back back by God (cf. Psalm 113) to allow the people of God to cross, and the gates of Hades. Christ is standing on a dry base rather than immersed in the water, which emphasizes the connection between Jesus and Joshua, who crossed the Jordan on the dry river bed, and is seen as a prototype of Jesus. (“Joshua” and “Jesus” are variants of the same name, which means “God saves.”)

    Then I posted the ink drawing on Facebook and invited comments. People focused immediately on the nudity of Our Lord, and the symbolism of the elements described above. I had deliberately chosen to have Christ nude because this scene and the Garden of Eden are perhaps the two where nudity is important to the story. We had just been studying this icon in reference to a study of the story of Joshua in Fr Sebatian Carnazzo’s scripture class, also offered by Pontifex University as part of the Masters in Sacred Arts program. In this class, he explained how people used to be baptized naked; they would come into the baptistery wearing old clothes, cast them aside, and then after baptism put on the new clothes of grace. You can see the angel holding the new garment for Christ in the drawing. Furthermore, I had written in the past about John Paul II’s call for artists to portray the human person, “naked without shame”, and his assertion that it was in the Gothic and iconographic styles that this was most appropriate (as distinct from more naturalistic styles). So I wanted to try and create something in accordance with what he had asked for.
    Below you can see the first version with color:

    Here are some of the comments that were made in regard to it; as you can see, some openly said they didn’t like it and why. This is just small part of the dialogue that took place:

    Here you can see people commenting on the way I have painted and my choice of the Gothic style. Elsewhere, there were some negative views expressed about the nudity of Christ. I explained in response to those who commented that I viewed the figure, in accordance with the iconographic and early Gothic traditions, as One clothed in glory that is so dazzling that detail is obscured. People accepted my explanation, but it was clear to me that this is not how it really appeared to them. So I had to rethink my approach.

    In the end, I decided that it was more appropriate to have a loin cloth, as has been the practice in Eastern icons since about the 16th century; otherwise, if I wish to make the point of his nudity, the legs need to be crossed the other way, so that there isn’t a sense of missing detail or of Christ as an androgenous figure.

    In general, the old images from the Western tradition tend to have him fully immersed if he is nude (as in the original from the Winchester Psalter above), as in the following Gothic illuminations:

    In the second one above, a little more work could have been done by the artist to shroud the underwater part of his figure in mystery!
    Around the 16th century, Eastern iconography settled on a portrayal of Christ in the Jordan in a loin cloth:

    As I considered the history of the traditionm and the comments of my Facebook friends, I felt that I would choose to have a nude Christ in the future, in accordance with the Western tradition, and have him fully immersed in the water; in this depiction, however, the best I could do would be to add a loin cloth, as below:

    I wasn’t altogether happy with the final result; the folds aren’t particularly convincing and Christ looks like He’s about to take to center court at Wimbledon with a pair of freshly starched tennis shorts! I would do better in future if I planned it from the start. Nevertheless, I found the process very useful indeed, and would certainly do this again as part of this development of a new tradition.

    Why do I think this Facebook discussion is so valuable?

    It comes down to the nature of beauty. If my work is beautiful, it will be enjoyed by more people. So while I have to be discerning in whom I listen to, this process constitutes, in effect, a bit of market research: it is telling me, other things being equal, how much did people like the image, which relates to how beautiful it is. Within the bounds that define the tradition of sacred art, I wanted to connect with as many people as possible at a natural level. On the whole, people are rarely rude to your face;if they don’t like something, they just ignore it and stay silent. I have to bear that in mind as I read the comments, and try to think as much about what they are not saying, as what they are saying.

    Social media allows an artist to expose his work to his market while it is in progress, and in its finished form. The reach of the internet is quick and geographically huge. I had people from thousands of miles away reacting with considered comments in a matter of minutes. It is true that I doing this with small scale photographs of the icons, which is not quite the same as showing people the original, but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages in this process.

    Beyond responses to the simple question, “Do you like this?”, I was interested in the comments made by expert iconographers on the content and composition.

    There were others too who wouldn’t call themselves experts, but in many ways their comments were just as useful. I was trying to discern from them whether or not the truths that I intended my pictures to communicate were grasped by the whole range of people who were likely to use such a picture in their prayer and worship. Because I discovered that my work initially failed, in part, to do this, that I made the decision to change my original icon.

    Not only did this help me in the creation of a painting, it gave me lessons to pass on to those who will take my class next semester. I constructed a whole lesson around this process of dialogue between Church and artist and the study of John Paul II’s Letter to Artists, using this example as one case study. What I hope artists and patrons will realize is that this has to be a dynamic process, in which each is constantly responding to the other so that the quality of art produced steadily improves.

    The long term goal of the Pontifex University Masters in Sacred Arts is the emergence of patrons and artists who can work together to put all of this theory into practice in the creation of beautiful art. The Russian ex-patriots who re-established iconography so well in the mid-twentieth centuries had their theorists who laid the foundations, such as Vladimir Lossky and Paul Evdimikov. But they had also, and crucially, gifted artists who worked with them and manifested that theory as actual holy icons that connected with the people of the Church in their time. This started in the Russian Church, but under their inspiration, it happened also the other Eastern Churches, the Melkite, the Greek and the Coptic. These artists who lead the way were figures such as Leonid Ouspensky, Gregory Kroug, Fotius Kontoglou and Isaac Fanous.

    Although I would love to think that it might be so, the indications are that I am not one of the artists will be one of the 21st century Fra Angelicos who will inspire the new Catholic art (although I may have some part to play). However. it is wholly possible that the figures whose are will inspire the new epiphany of beauty in the Roman Catholic Chruch are amongst those students who are taking the Pontifex University Masters in Sacred Arts.

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  • 01/03/17--15:56: Special Chants for Epiphany
  • Our good friends of the Schola Sainte Cécile have posted two items of interest for the upcoming feast of the Epiphany: a special tone for the chanting for the Gospel, and the proclamation of the date of Easter and of the movable feasts which is traditionally made after the Gospel, for the year 2017. The tone of the latter, also known from its first word as the Noveritis, is basically the same as that of the Exsultet. I have heard this special Gospel tone at Mass, and it is really quite beautiful.

    You can click these photos to enlarge them. If you should decide to use these pieces in the liturgy, you can download them in pdf format, with some very nice decorations, at the following links: pdf of the Gospel; pdf of the Noveritis.

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    This year, Lord, I would like a fatter bank account and a slimmer body. Please don’t mix them up like this past year! New Year’s Day is the one time in secular society when we reflect on our circumstances most acutely. What did we accomplish this past year, and what goals ought we to set for the upcoming year?

    This sort of reflection is built in to Catholic worship and theology, and a particular grammatical form is absolutely essential to preserve it: the subjunctive mood.  My 1927 copy of H.W. Fowler’s Modern English Usage informs me, unceremoniously, that the subjunctive is “moribund, except in a few easily specified uses.” Well, I say, Mr. H. W. Fowler is now defunct, but the subjunctive remains. (In his honor, I have unceremoniously italicized all instances of the subjunctive in this article.) 
    There are a variety of different subjunctives. My mother’s favorite was the so-called “hortatory” subjunctive: Let’s all clean our rooms today! I can't say I shared her cheerful enthusiasm for cleaning, but If I were to deny her request, she would switch to the imperative mood: "Go clean your room... now!" Indeed, it was a different mood altogether!
    The basic essence of the subjunctive mood isn’t flimsy politeness or nicety. My dusty schoolboy’s copy of Wheelock’s Latin teaches “In contrast to the indicative, the mood of actuality and factuality, the subjunctive is in general (though not always) the mood of potential, tentative, hypothetical, ideal, or even unreal action." (186) 
    Our Catholic prayers are filled with the subjunctive. Consider the Offertory prayer from the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God: "O God, who in your kindness begin all good things and bring them to fulfillment, grant to us, who find joy in the Solemnity of the holy Mother of God, that, just as we glory in the beginnings of your grace, so one day we may rejoice in its completion. Through Christ our Lord… "
    God begins all good things and brings them to fulfillment, but -- seems fair to say -- not all things are completed yet. To quote the once-popular philosopher Lenny Kravitz, and to offer a gross paraphrase of St. Augustine’s On Perseverance, “It ain’t over ‘till it’s over.” Isn’t this the reason we’re praying? 
    It is a basic human hope that everything broken be fixed– even our most secular friends hope this – yet it is the mark of Christian hope to maintain the perfect ideal while observing the imperfect reality. Subjunctive is, as it were, the Christian grammatical mood. We may not say that everything is already fixed, when clearly it’s not. Nor may we say everything is broken, either.  We may not say simply that everything will be fixed, because that is presumption. Instead, we say, “May it be fixed, as God has promised.” And then we get to work.
    So, dare I say it, may Mr. H.W. Fowler rest in peace. And from all of us at NLM, may your 2017 be a year of faith, hope, and charity... a year of success, growth, happiness, and goodwill. 

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    Our next major photopost will be for liturgies celebrated on the Epiphany, whether in the OF (Sunday, Jan. 8 in the United States) or the EF, or any of the Eastern Rites, Ordinariate Use, etc.; and as always, we will be very glad to include other liturgical ceremonies such as the Blessing of the Waters. Please send your pictures to, and don’t forget to include the name of the church and its location, along with any other information you think worth noting. Evangelize through beauty!

    From last year’s Epiphany photopost: genuflecting at the words “And falling down they adored Him” during the Gospel, at the church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory, in London, England.

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    Our thanks to Mr John Rotondi, who serves as an instituted acolyte at the Mater Ecclesiae Mission in Berlin, New Jersey, for sending us this article.

    The Epiphany of Our Lord is the central feast of the Incarnation cycle, which runs from the First Sunday of Advent to Candlemas. Epiphany is not the end, but the apex of this cycle; it brings to full fruition the expectation of Advent’s “Veni, Domine.” Epiphany fulfills Christmas; Our Lord was born in the stillness of the night and manifested His birth only to a few; the Epiphany recounts Our Lord manifesting Himself, human and divine, to the whole world, from which point, His salvific mission begins.

    Epiphany brings to fruition the gradual unfolding of the manifestation of Jesus Christ, the eternal Word of the Father, as God made man. The word Epiphany itself is a Greek word meaning “manifestation”; the Eastern Churches call the feast Theophany, meaning the manifestation or appearance of God. St. Paul writes to Titus (2, 11) in a passage often repeated during this season, “The grace of the saving God has appeared (‘epephane’ in Greek) to all men.” At His Nativity, the Word made flesh is manifested to the Holy Family, to shepherds, to lowly beasts of burden. At His Circumcision on the eighth day, the Word Incarnate is given the name Jesus in the temple, and He sheds His first drops of blood for our redemption. And now, He is fully revealed to the world in three ways which this feast of Epiphany celebrates simultaneously: His adoration by pagan wise men from the East; His baptism in the Jordan, at which His divinity and the Triune God are revealed, and the mission of St John the Baptist, which dominated the liturgy in Advent, is fulfilled; and His first miracle, the changing of water into wine at the wedding feast at Cana.

    Epiphany illustration in the Roman Missal showing the three manifestations
    As such, Epiphany is one of the four principle feasts of the year, along with Christmas, Easter and Pentecost, traditionally preceded by a privileged and special vigil. (By vigil, we refer to an entire day of preparation before a major feast, not a Mass of the feast itself anticipated the evening before.) Considering the importance of the feast, it is a very strange and unfortunate phenomenon that its ancient vigil, along with its highly privileged octave, was suppressed in 1955, along with many other things. Hence, in the 1962 Roman Calendar, there is no longer a “Vigil of Epiphany,” and January 5 was recast as a generic Christmas feria. This post will describe the Roman Liturgy of Epiphany Eve as it existed prior to that time.

    Epiphany Eve is like Christmas Eve in that both are privileged vigils which exclude the celebration of other feasts and may be celebrated on a Sunday. (Non-privileged or common vigils would be anticipated on Saturday if they fell on a Sunday.) Unlike Christmas Eve, that of Epiphany because it is part of Christmas season, takes on a festal character: its color is white instead of violet. It is a joyful vigil without penitential elements, either in text or in fasting and abstinence; Dom Guéranger elaborates in The Liturgical Year:
    This Vigil is not like that of Christmas, a day of penance. The Child, whose coming we were then awaiting, in the fervor of our humble desires, is now among us, preparing to bestow fresh favors upon us. This eve of tomorrow’s Solemnity is a day of joy, like those that have preceded it; and therefore, we do not fast, nor does the Church put on the vestments of mourning, even in those churches where the Octave Day of St. Thomas of Canterbury is not observed. If the Office of the Vigil be the one of today, the color used is white.
    This is the twelfth day since the Birth of our Emmanuel. If the Vigil of the Epiphany fall on a Sunday, it shares, with Christmas Eve, the privilege of not being anticipated, as all other Vigils are, on the Saturday: it is kept on the Sunday, has all the privileges of a Sunday, and the Mass is that of the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas Day. Let us, therefore, celebrate this Vigil in great joy of heart, and prepare our souls for tomorrow’s graces.
    The last words of our Advent were those of the Spouse, recorded in the prophecy of the Beloved Disciple: Come, Lord Jesus, come! We will close this first part of our Christmas with those words of the Prophet Isaias, which the Church has so often spoken to us : unto us a Child is born! The heavens have dropped down their Dew, the clouds have rained down the Just One, the earth has yielded its Savior, The Word Is Made Flesh, the Virgin has brought forth her sweet Fruit--our Emmanuel, that is, God with us. The Sun of Justice now shines upon us; darkness has fled; in heaven there is Glory to God; on earth, there is Peace to men. All these blessings have been brought to us by the humble yet glorious Birth of this Child. Let us adore Him in His Crib; let us love Him for all His love of us; and let us prepare the gifts we intend to present to Him, with the Magi, on tomorrow’s Feast. The joy of the Church is as great as ever; the Angels are adoring in their wondering admiration; all nature thrills with delight:--Unto us is born a little Child! (vol. 1, pp. 484-5)
    As a festal Office, that of the Epiphany Vigil begins with First Vespers on the evening of January 4. The antiphons and psalms, as well as the chapter, hymn, verse, and Magnificat antiphon are taken from the feast of the Circumcision; the collect, however, is that from the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas. Compline is the same this evening of January 4 as it has been during the Christmas season thus far.

    Matins and Lauds are also largely taken from the feast of the Circumcision. The lessons of the first nocturne continue the Epistle to the Romans begun on December 29; those of the second are taken from a Christmas sermon of (pseudo-)St Augustine in which he, like Dom Guéranger, refers to the fulfilment of the “Rorate caeli” of Advent. Those of the third nocturne are taken from St Jerome’s treatise on the Gospel of the Vigil’s Mass (noted further below); the Te Deum is sung as on feasts. Lauds are also repeated from the Circumcision, with the Collect of Sunday.

    Prime and Terce follow at their usual times; the Mass of the Vigil is celebrated after Terce, rather than after None, as is the case with the other three major vigils. The Mass Propers are taken from the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas – i.e. the Introit Dum medium, etc. The Gloria in excelsis is sung. After the Collect there are two commemorations, the first of St Telesphorus, Pope and Martyr, the second of the Virgin Mary. The Epistle is repeated from the Sunday within the Octave, but the Gospel today is proper, St Matthew 2, 19-23, which recounts the death of Herod and the return of the Holy Family from Egypt to Nazareth, the continuation of the previous day’s Gospel on the Octave of the Holy Innocents. (This Gospel passage does not appear in the 1962 Missal.) The Credo is sung by special rubric for this vigil. The Preface is of the Nativity, the last time it is sung this season, but the proper Communicantes of Christmas is not said.

    Sext and None are sung in the afternoon at their usual times, after which, the Vigil of the Epiphany comes to an end; there is no color change to mark the transition, since white is used for both vigil and feast. The feast of the Epiphany then begins with First Vespers, at which is sung the Magnificat antiphon “The Magi seeing the star, said to themselves: this is the sign of the great King; let us go and seek after Him, and let us offer him gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh, alleluia.” The Roman Liturgy will continue to emphasize the Magi and their gifts in the texts of the Epiphany, though again, we celebrate three manifestations.

    The most noteworthy aspect of the Liturgy on Epiphany Eve is the solemn blessing of water given in the Roman Ritual for this evening, an ancient eastern tradition borrowed in recent centuries by the West. The significance of this ceremony cannot be understated; Easter and Pentecost, the only two feasts of the year more important than Epiphany, are both preceded by solemn baptismal vigil rites. The Epiphany Water, however, is not baptismal water, but evokes the same theme of baptismal cleansing; this ceremony connects us to the second (and arguably the most important of the three) manifestations we celebrate, the Baptism of Our Lord in the Jordan. Hence, Easter, Pentecost, and Epiphany are all preceded by vesperal, baptismal-themed rites.

    This ceremony has had two iterations in the West. The first was observed before 1892 and was much more elaborate, mimicking, to a large extent, a Matins’ service. The older ceremony also has many parallels to the Paschal Vigil on Holy Saturday, notably in the inclusion of sung Prophecies. The second iteration is a scaled down rite and came to be codified in the Roman Ritual after 1892; this will be discussed in further detail.

    Since it was never incorporated into the Roman Missal as a vigil ritual like that of Holy Saturday, the blessing of water on Epiphany Eve has always been optional in the West, and unfortunately, it has almost always been practiced sporadically, and increasingly less often during the twentieth century. There was even a time in the interwar years (i.e. 1920-1940) when some high-ranking ecclesiastics actively tried to suppress it as “too Eastern” . (The anti-liturgical heresy, as Dom Guéranger called it, will always be with us!) In more recent years, it is enjoying a small renaissance among a few tradition-minded parishes.

    Blessing and exorcism of Epiphany Water at Mater Ecclesiae on Jan 5, 2016
    The post-1892 Epiphany Water ceremony begins with a penitential act: the Litany of the Saints is sung kneeling, and two additional invocations are added to bless the water. Three psalms, 28, 45, and 146 are then sung, the verses alternated in the usual manner by the two sides of the choir. Next, the celebrant pronounces a solemn exorcism over the water, as in many other such blessings. Then the antiphon “Hodie caelesti Sponso” is sung with the Magnificat (or Benedictus if the ceremony is performed in the morning): “Today the church is joined to her heavenly Spouse, for Christ washed her offenses in the Jordan: the Magi hurried with gifts to the heavenly wedding-feast, and from water being made wine, the wedding-feast is made gladsome, alleluia.” This antiphon, recounting the triple manifestation we celebrate, is also the Benedictus antiphon sung at Lauds on the morning of Epiphany and again on its Octave Day. Following the Gospel Canticle, the water blessing proper takes place: exorcism of salt and the confection and blessing of the water. All present are then sprinkled with the blessed water, and the ceremony finally concludes with the hymn of thanksgiving, the Te Deum.

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    The Cathedral Basilica of Ss Peter and Paul in Philadelphia will host a Solemn Mass for the feast of the Epiphany on the traditional date, January 6th, together with the blessing of gold, frankincense & myrrh, and the blessing of chalk. The proclamation of the movable feasts will also be sung. The Ordinary of the Mass will be the Mass for 4 Voices of William Byrd, with the motets Jesu, dulcis memoria and O Magnum Mysterium, both by Victoria. The church is located at 1723 Race St.; the ceremony will begin at 7.00 p.m.

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